North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis headlined a press event at the General Assembly this morning that was supposed to be about kicking off the 2014 legislative session but that, at times, felt a lot like a part of Tillis’ U.S. Senate campaign.
There will plenty of time for dissecting the details of what was said at the event, but there was at least one familiar conservative talking point repeated by Tillis that deserves to be debunked immediately and often.
Namely, it is utterly absurd for legislative conservatives (or anyone else for that matter) to argue — as the Speaker did at at least one point — that Democrats imposed more significant cuts on state services (like public education) back in 2009 and 2010 than have been imposed since the GOP assumed control of the General Assembly in 2011 and the Governor’s mansion in 2013. This is like blaming FDR for the plunge in federal spending during the Great Depression.
Earth to Speaker Tillis: Yes there were large and problematic state budget cuts in 2009 and 2010, but that’s mostly because state revenues had literally dropped like an anvil as a result of the global Great Recession. Though their response was far from perfect, Gov. Perdue and then-legislative leaders worked hard to plug the hole and did a hell of a lot better job of keeping the lights on than did the leaders of many other states (some of which actually went so far as to shorten their school years).
And even more to the point, they did what they did over the incessant complaints and obstruction of conservatives of both parties who would have slashed the budget much deeper. Moreover, when conservatives did gain power, they refused to take advantage of the economic recovery (or to help it along) by providing the resources that would have allowed state services (like education) to return to pre-Great Recession levels. As a result, North Carolina K-12 spending has still not caught up.
The bottom line: Tillis and his fellow conservatives can’t (or shouldn’t be allowed to) have it both ways; one can’t scream about taxes and runaway state spending and obstruct efforts to plug gaping budget holes with modest tax increases (as conservatives did five years ago and ever since they assumed power) and then retroactively complain about budget cuts their obstruction and nay-saying helped bring about!